A SCOTTISH criminal defence lawyer who suffers from dyslexia is using TikTok to educate people on the basics of the law. 

Thomas McGovern, 27, is a trainee defence solicitor based in Wishaw in North Lanarkshire.

Over the last couple of weeks, his TikTok videos on police interviews, drink driving and offences related to weapons have garnered well over 150,000 views. 

Although he works in the legal sector now, McGovern admits it’s not a profession he was always overly keen on. 

Speaking to The National, he said: “It was more sport I was into at school but then I started to like history and politics and I was good at it so my motivation to work at it went up. 

“Law was the kind of thing you went into if you were good at those types of subjects although when I first got to university, I wasn’t massively into it. 

“It was mainly the interest in history and politics that had got me there.”

McGovern has suffered with dyslexia since being at school although initially chose not to disclose this too much to his colleagues. 

In terms of the practical impact, he says this can mean using a phone in court rather than a piece of paper which led to one particular “sitcom-esque” moment. 

“I can’t read my own handwriting because of my dyslexia so I have to use a phone which I think still has that old school thing attached to it where it looks like you’re not concentrating”, McGovern explained. 

He continued: “Basically, I was using the notes section of my phone. The sheriff interrupted me as I was giving a submission and he said it was unprofessional to use it whilst in court. 

“I explained I was dyslexic; I needed the aid to do my job properly and asked if he understood. 

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“Straight away he said, ‘oh no, no, no, it was only if it was a problem for you”, McGovern recalls, laughing.

He added: “Getting called unprofessional is quite a stark thing coming from someone in a position of authority.

“it’s a different world I’m in to be totally frank.”

McGovern overcame a lot of adversity owing to his dyslexia at university where he says he went through 11 resit exams. 

It’s an experience he described as being akin to “the scene at the end of The Shawshank Redemption” when Andy Dufresne crawls through the sewage tunnel. 

Part of the reason he didn’t open up initially when entering the legal world was his fear over what the reaction would be. 

He said: “In terms of my profession there was a trainee grant provided last year to help a lot of young people but the average age is about 55-60 which is in stark contrast to a lot of other professions which are more spread out.

“I was concerned about how that demographic might react because people my age don’t really bother. 

“In my experience students and young people are very sympathetic and in the know.”

Eventually though, McGovern felt he wanted to share his experience which led to an article being published in the journal for the Law Society of Scotland. 

The National:

He said the reaction in the legal world has been “overwhelming” and “positive”. In turn, this inspired the creation of the TikTok account “scotlandscriminallawyer”. 

“In my job you need to think outside the box and how to engage with clients so it was essentially videos explaining different areas of law. 

"I felt I should be as open and transparent as possible.

“The TikTok demographic is young people and totally different from what you get on LinkedIn or even Twitter and I just wanted to inform people about criminal law which is still a bit of a taboo subject”, he said. 

McGovern continued: “My first two videos got well over 100,000 views although I’ve taken two of them down just to do a bit more work on them.

"I actually ended up getting recognised in court because of it and getting some work out of it.

“I think it’s important to take away the stigma around criminal law. It’s not something you maybe think about until you get a charge or you need to be questioned about and then it becomes very real.”

Although McGovern admits it’s hard to give a specific answer as to why everybody is so captured by crime, particularly true-crime dramas at the moment, he says part of it is likely down to it being “so different from people’s day to day lives”. 

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He continued: “I feel as if when you have dyslexia you can suffer from a lack of confidence but it’s time to be as unapologetic as you can be and if people have a problem, which I would say generally they don’t to be fair, then that’s on them. 

“It’s a kind of societal thing where we have to be more accepting of things that go against the norm. 

“Sometimes people just need to take a moment to pause. You might not see what’s wrong on the surface and we can be quick to ignore that. 

“If taking that moment is going against convention then so be it."